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Proposed Taxi Fare Increase Heads to Transit Board

Taxis wait for fares in front of the St. Francis hotel in San Francisco.
Taxis wait for fares in front of the St. Francis hotel in San Francisco.
San Francisco cab drivers have not gotten a raise since 2003

SAN FRANCISCO — Higher taxi fares may be coming soon to a meter near you.

The Taxi Advisory Council, a group made up of taxi drivers and cab company representatives, voted Monday afternoon to send a proposed fare increase to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors.

The proposal would raise the “flag drop” — the initial, flat fee charged whenever a ride begins — by 40 cents to $3.50. The rates for one-fifth of a mile of driving and one minute of waiting time would each go up by 10 cents to 55 cents.

A controversial surcharge for passengers who call for a taxi, rather than flagging one down, was not included in the recommendations. Nor was a fuel surcharge. Both had been floated as possibilities in recent news reports.

Council members approved the proposed increases 8-4.

Dan Hinds, president of National Cab Company, was among those who voted against the fare increase, which he said was too high.

“One of the errors we’re making here is to assume that the demand is going to stay the same, and that the customer that we’re serving is not going to be put off by this increase,” he said. "I think as an industry we have to focus on improving the quality of our service, and if we do that, then the demand for our business and the demand for our service is going to go up, and drivers will be making more income."

But many council members and drivers who spoke up during the public comment period said they thought the proposal struck a good balance between making up for increases in the cost of living — San Francisco taxi drivers have not gotten a raise since 2003 — and not being too burdensome for customers.

Mark Gruberg, a medallion holder who drives for Green Cab and represents the United Taxicab Workers, a drivers’ association, had offered an alternative proposal that he said was designed to spread the fare increase more evenly across short, medium and long trips. It didn't get much attention from the council.

“Naturally I would have preferred that they would have taken it up, but I’m glad to see that something is going forward,” Gruberg said. “Drivers deserve” a raise.

The SFMTA board will consider the proposed fare raise Tuesday.

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